Gardening Column


Keeping it Fresh from the Garden to the Table

You spent the summer weeding, watering and tending to your vegetable garden. Now all your effort has paid off with a bountiful harvest. Maximize the flavor and nutritional value of your homegrown vegetables with proper harvesting and storage.

For the freshest flavor, always prepare and serve vegetables immediately after harvest. But let’s face it, most of us are living busy lives and lucky to get the vegetables picked and eventually cooked. Plus, all the extras will need to be shared, preserved or stored for future enjoyment. Here are a few things you can do to keep the flavor fresh.

Handle produce with care. Nicking, breaking and bruising the vegetables during harvest decreases storage life and quality. Harvest leafy crops such as lettuce, kale, and collards last as they quickly wilt after harvest. And with the wilting goes the ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).

Ideally, vegetables you plan to prepare immediately should be cleaned outdoors. You’ll keep garden soil out of the kitchen sink and in the garden where it belongs. Collect your veggies in an open weave wire or plastic harvest basket like the Mod Hod. Its fold out legs allow the produce to dry before bringing it indoors. Rinse off the soil with the hose, drain excess water and carry your veggies into the kitchen to prepare.

Clean your counters and cutting boards before you start slicing, cutting and dicing your vegetables. Trim stems, remove damaged leaves and compost these in the garden or worm bin. They will have a second life as compost in next year’s garden.

Wait to wash, trim, and clean the vegetables you plan to store or prepare later. The scraping, cutting and slicing process increases the loss of vitamins and flavor and reduces storage quality.

Increase storage longevity by matching vegetables with their preferred storage conditions. The closer you come to this, the longer your produce will last.

Store roots crops like beets, turnips and radishes as well as cabbage and Brussels sprouts in a cold, moist condition. A spare refrigerator works great for these. Those in colder climates can store their carrots and parsnips right in the garden. Once the soil gets a bit crunchy, cover them with straw or evergreen boughs for easier digging in winter. Then dig as needed or harvest during the first winter thaw.

Keep potatoes in a cool, humid and dark location like a cool corner in the basement. Sunlight causes the exposed portions to produce green chlorophyll and solanine, a glycoalkaloid toxin. The solanine gives the potatoes a bitter flavor and can cause vomiting and diarrhea if enough green potatoes are eaten. Just cut away any green portions before using.

Store winter squash in a cool location as well. They can tolerate a bit lower humidity and last for four months or more when properly harvested and stored.

Use slatted crates or other vegetable storage solutions (gardeners.com) to maximize storage space and increase storage longevity. These systems provide ample storage space, so fruits and vegetables do not touch. Keeping stored fruit separated prevents rot from spreading from one fruit to the next. Plus, the slatted sides allow airflow to extend storage longevity.

A few simple changes in handling your harvest will improve its storage life, flavor, and nutritional quality. Better quality means less waste and more abundance for cooking and sharing.

Follow these harvesting tips to enjoy garden-fresh meals throughout the remainder of the growing season. Then continue creating tasty meals reminiscent of the garden season with properly stored produce long after your harvest is past.

Photo credit – Melinda Myers, LLC

Cutline – Decorative fences are an effective way to hide composting stations conveniently tucked behind gardens in the landscape.

Enjoy an Attractive and Convenient Composting Station

Make recycling green debris into compost convenient and attractive. Create a space you and your neighbors will appreciate. And locate composting in a convenient area that is easy to access and manage, so you are more likely to do it.

You’ll quickly recoup your initial investment of time and money. Spend less time hauling the materials to the recycling center and money spent on soil amendments.

Most importantly, you’ll boost the health and beauty of your landscape while helping the environment.

Start by looking for spaces in the landscape or garden where compostable materials can easily be moved into the bin, pile turned, and the finished compost harvested and transported into the garden where it is needed. You found a place to stow the trash cans without ruining the beauty of your landscape or offending your neighbors, so do the same with your compost area.

Purchase or build a compost bin that matches your landscape style. Some bins are built to be an attractive addition to the landscape while others are designed to fade into the garden and go unnoticed. Try using materials similar to your fence, shed or other structures. Situate the bin, so it appears to be an extension of these or an additional garden feature.

Speed up the composting process by creating a pile at least three feet tall and wide. Use only insect- and disease-free materials. Do not include meat, fat, bones, or dairy products that can attract rodents or weeds and invasive plants that can survive most composting and end up back in your garden.

Mix nitrogen rich green materials such as vegetable scraps, and herbicide-free grass clippings and carbon rich browns such as cornstalks, evergreen needles and tree leaves. Top this 8 to 10” layer with compost and sprinkle three cups of a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer, like Milorganite (milorganite.com), over this layer. The organic nitrogen helps feed the microorganisms that break down the raw materials into compost. Continue layering with plant debris, compost and fertilizer until the pile is at least three feet high.

Use plants to screen the compost process. Place a simple wire bin in the middle of the garden. It’s convenient; since this is the place you generate garden debris and use much of the finished product. The surrounding plantings will hide the bin.

Or place your bin behind a garden border of tall grasses, shrubs or other permanent plantings. Make sure your neighbors’ view is equally as nice. Leave sufficient room for adding materials to compost, turning the pile if needed and harvesting the compost.

Team up with your neighbors to create more gardening and composting space. Design a shared garden and compost area across the lot line. Use steppers for easy access and beautify both yards with attractive plantings. You’ll each enjoy the extra garden space and valuable compost you create.

Up the ornamental appeal a bit more by installing a decorative fence as a backdrop for one of your garden beds. Design the screen to run parallel to a fence or hedge along the lot line. Leave enough space between the two structures for composting, storing mulch, shredded leaves, garden stakes and more. Include a gate or entryway along the side for easy access.

Once you start exploring options, your creativity will help you build a composting space suited to your needs. Then get ready to enjoy the increased beauty and productivity that the compost will provide in your gardens and containers.

Gardening expert Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and spokesperson for Milorganite. Myers’ website is www.melindamyers.com.

11 Easy Bathroom Remodeling Ideas

Author : Tom Kraeutler

New York , NY

Tom is the Host, Founder and Chief Home Improvement Evangelist of The Money Pit. He is a hands-on home improvement broadcast journalist and the kind of guy homeowners want to call at midnight — when…

Bathroom remodeling is often high on homeowners’ wish lists, with better storage, a more functional floor plan and ease of use for all family members in the bargain. But bathroom remodeling can be expensive.

Luckily, you don’t need to tear into walls or completely reconfigure plumbing to get great results. Instead, consider making small-scale changes and additions to your bathroom to create the kind of space you need. Here are some ideas for a mini-remodeling of the your bathroom.

1. Corner sinks: Whether pedestal-style or wall-mounted, a corner sink provides functional charm and frees up floor space in the bathroom. Setting up space-saving storage elsewhere in the room (see below) means you don’t need the traditional cabinet vanity, and a smaller bowl will still provide plenty of capacity.

2. Small-scale, cabinet-mounted vessel sinks: Another sink option is the vessel style, mounted on a scaled-down cabinet or other furnishing that provides a bit of storage in the bathroom.

3. Toilets with flat tank tops: A flat-top tank gives you another storage spot, whether you place organizers directly on top of it or take advantage of the wall space above for a hanging cabinet or shelving.

4. Curved quadrant shower units: Conserve precious real estate by including a comfy curved quadrant shower enclosure in your bathroom remodel, which sports two straight sides mounted into a corner and a curved entry that saves at least a square foot of space compared with traditional units.

5. Smaller, deeper tubs: Look for smaller-scale tubs that offer a great soak with deep-set seating. Small claw foot tubs are one option, and modern fixtures inspired by traditional Japanese tubs abound.

6. Lower-profile faucets and fixtures: Visual space opens up when you select low-profile fixtures, while the range of styles available allows you to beautifully accessorize a small bathroom.

7. Converted furnishings: Refurbished stand-alone storage cabinets, small tables converted into carts, and other vintage finds add personality to your remodeled bathroom while sequestering linens and toiletries.

8. Medicine cabinets: One of the greatest bathroom space-savers of all time, the medicine cabinet can beautifully and seamlessly provide storage. Installed between two wall studs, it’s an easy DIY endeavor and can be found in looks ranging from beveled-glass retro to contemporary sleek.

9. Towel storage and stowage: The lack of a linen closet or surplus cabinet space needn’t mean a trail of towels and washcloths on the bathroom floor. Here’s an idea to keep things accessible while keeping them neat: mount a hotel-style multi-tiered rack on the back of the entry door, near the shower or tub. Not only does it add that much-needed storage space, but it does it with style.

10. Wall-mounted radiator/warming rack: You’ll enjoy the comfort of radiant heat and the luxury of warm towels with a European-style wall-mounted radiator in the bathroom. Low profiles keep wall space sleek and blend with any décor.

11. Shower or tub shelf: Some benefits of an expensive remodeling of your bathroom can be accomplished with a simple move. For example, move toiletries out of other storage zones in the bathroom to a handy shelf mounted in a shower or just above the edge of a tub. Whether the shelf blends into a fixture or adds a touch of glamor with complementary materials, make sure it’s rust-proof and easy to clean.

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By Melinda Myers